SMAC it!

The current decade has started to witness a fast changing landscape in technological innovations, some of which have brought about sweeping changes in everyday activities. If you look at a typical day in the life of a tech-savvy individual (either a college-going student or a working professional), you will find them operating in ways you’d not imagined a few years ago. Now come on, did you foresee people around you move about carrying a computer chip in their eyeglasses or wrist watches? At least two of my techie colleagues are seen donning the Google Glass in office these days, and I know of at least one friend—a fitness fanatic—working out with all these fancy wearable gadgets and checking in his progress on Facebook.

To take stock of the changes—small and big—that have stealthily crept in and comfortably fitted into our everyday life, let’s meet with Susan, a sales executive from a multinational corporation.

So, what does a typical day in her life look like? Let’s sneak a peek …


Looks familiar, doesn’t it? Like any other digitally savvy individual, Susan’s daily routine is strongly influenced by elements of the social and mobile worlds. Then, a crucial question that comes tom my mind as a learning designer is why should her learning environment be any different? Why can’t Susan’s learning use these very elements and mimic her real life?

Picture this …


Wouldn’t the merging of her personal and learning spaces result in an enhanced experience?

Accept it—the 21st century modern learners are clearly very different from what we’ve seen in the past. Their life is largely influenced by the Social, Cloud, and Mobile worlds. Add “Analytics” to this list and you get what is now a popular and fairly impactful acronym—SMAC—in the IT services world.

SMAC is influencing this digital generation so much that they now have shorter attention spans and, therefore, end up demanding information in smaller bites, albeit very fast and preferably on the go. When these new-age learners look for learning, they go to Google, YouTube, TED talks, Khan Academy, and, for the last couple of years, MOOCs! Increasingly, these learners want their learning experiences to match the pace and style of their life.

Undoubtedly, the Social and Cloud-based learning environments powered by Analytics and Mobile First design are characterizing and influencing the way learners learn today. These individuals increasingly want to merge their personal and learning spaces, so that their leaning experiences mimic their everyday life. Most importantly, these learners foster a culture of continuous and continual learning by:

  • Learning from a constant stream of knowledge and information
  • Collaborating to share knowledge, experiences, ideas, and resources as part of their everyday life
  • Extracting learning from their everyday activities both at work and in their personal life

And how best can learning design address the needs of the SMAC learner?

At the least, we need to start attempting to change, to swing around, and to shift elements in our design thinking. We need to move from a narrow “design a training” approach to thinking holistically in terms of “providing an integrated learning ecosystem” that should, at the least, provide for the following:

  • Unique learning experience
    • Self-driven and personalized paths
    • Micro (byte-sized) and pervasive learning
    • Peer to peer collaboration
    • Integration of social media and/or social media-like elements
    • Curation and dynamic building of content
    • Live projects and practical application
  • Scalability and Cost effectiveness
    • Should cost less to develop (by integrating open resources)
    • Longer shelf life and sustainability of training materials
    • Option for an Instructor-less delivery
    • Cloud-based deployment
    • Flexible and easy access via mobile devices

Simply put, we need to SMAC it!

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